Hello, everyone! I’ve set aside development for a while to play again, thanks to a present from a friend. But that didn’t stop me from also collecting a bunch of useful links.
For starters, both Gamasutra and Emily Short write about a new interactive fiction platform called Episode, that seems to have stealthily risen to massive popularity as of late. In related news, PC Gamer has an article titled The Tricky Business of Making Modern Adventure Games. And to look back into the past, Tim Schafer shares his thoughts on digital archeology (via Patrick Hellio).
Speaking of the past, this has been a good week for fans of retrogaming. On the one hand, there’s the story of a classic game magazine from the 1980s, and it’s surprisingly relevant. Hint: when a publication takes advertising from the same companies whose products they cover… yeah, you can’t blame the writers for being very careful what they write. It’s either that, or be out of a job faster than they can press Enter.
Luckily, nowadays you can be a game journalist for free, and that’s exactly what The Retrogaming Times crew is doing. Issue 7 is the first one I did more than skim, with a big retrospective of Street Fighter II — covering the social angle — and a number of Famicom games that deserve being remembered despite not being classics, among other subjects. All features are in-depth, so dive in! (And thanks to Vintage is the New Old for the tip, as usual.)
Sadly, I have to finish this issue with politics, namely an article on the people you won’t meet. Yes, it’s about Muslim game developers again. And it’s sad having to even bring it up, as if human rights could possibly be conditional, but I had no idea so many famous AAA games only exist thanks to developers of Iranian origin.
Can we please learn humanity already?
Hello, everyone! It’s yet another good week, despite my interests still lying well outside gaming for now. Let’s start with a couple of game retrospectives from Hardcore Gaming 101, first the long-lost and recently unearthed Warcraft Adventures, then of a much newer title: Tim Schafer’s big comeback Broken Age. Which, if anything, illustrated both the potential and the danger crowdfunding holds even for a veteran game designer with countless fans. And still in the way of game retrospectives, Emily Short’s latest RPS column is about games that involve dressing up and going to a party, preferably with a good dose of swashbuckling. Much like her own creation Pytho’s Mask, that’s still among my all-time favorites.
In more technical news, we have another RPS article, this time on tools for RPG writing (think branching conversations and quests), and via Juhanna Leinonen, the announcement of a tool for translating interactive fiction. Not much to say there, except that tools are as hard to make as they are increasingly needed for good games, so it’s worth paying attention.
I’ll end with a story that’s more about art, culture and people than games, but still relevant in my opinion: Vanishing Point, or How the Light Grid Defined 1980s Futurism. On this note I bid you a good week. Until next time.
You know, for having spent half of the past week out of town, I’ve got more links than I hoped. Thank Ceiling Cat for wireless Internet and Android tablets.
I’ll start with this playthrough of a game from the recent Ludum Dare. Disclaimer: the developers are friends of mine. It’s one of them playing — I found the game just too hard for me.
For the curious, William the Wopol is written in Love 2D, using a custom engine and editor that by now has proven to be very robust.
You know how adventure games went from being the most popular kind to becoming a minor niche? Much has been written about the why and how of it, and whether it was deserved or not. But nothing compares to discovering for yourself the trade-offs involved in making adventure games versus any other kind.
See, working on a text adventure so soon after an arcade game made me notice a simple fact that should have been obvious in retrospect: the ratio of effort spent to entertainment provided is terrible for the former. So bad, in fact, that I can understand any game developer (whether professional or hobbyst) who decides it’s simply not worth it.
It’s only natural for a gamer to dream of making their own games. The good news is, the means for doing that are available to just about anyone nowadays. The bad news is, many people shy away at the thought of having to learn programming. And while that fear is completely unfounded, getting help as a beginner is of course useful.
In part one of this article, I mentioned a number of game-making tools that make game programming much, much easier than starting from scratch. This time I’m going to look at the kind that seeks to eliminate programming altogether, at least for the most part.
Making your own games is exhilarating, and surprisingly accessible considering all the work involved. But it’s still non-trivial; computer games are software, so beginners will struggle with learning enough programming, and they’re complex, so experts will struggle with juggling all the details.
This is why people have developed various pieces of software to ease game creation, ranging from the very general, that just help with the basic framework of a game, to modding tools that only allow making more content for a specific game (although the line is easily blurred, seeing how the Starcraft 2 SDK has been used to make everything from a falling blocks game, through shooters and racing games, and all the way to a full-blown MMORPG).
In the following paragraphs, I will focus on tools that cover the middle ground between those extremes.
Back when videogames were still new, there was no such thing as game genres; the very concept of a videogame was still taking shape. But we humans love putting labels on things, and once certain types of game mechanics proved popular, it wasn’t long before the market settled on a few easily identifiable genres which it exploited. Sure, new kinds of games continued to appear all along the 1980es and 1990es, but they were all promptly milked to death by an increasingly risk-averse gaming industry.
Luckily, nowadays the situation has been reversed again. Not only are indie game developers churning out an impressive array of innovative titles, but even established genres are going right back into the blender. RPGs are borrowing from shooters (Fallout 3, Mass Efect). Shooters are borrowing from strategy games (Team Fortress 2, Tremulous). And strategy games have had RPG elements since at least Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (for a modern example, see Battle for Wesnoth).
But even in the intervening years there were games that dared to break the mold and combine two existing kinds of gameplay into a coherent whole, or even do something entirely unique.